“Don’t take it home with you” is good advice for a healthy work/life balance.
But for Alan Shedd, taking it home is the fun part.
“If I am going to talk about energy efficiency with our members, I can be far more effective with personal knowledge and experience of the products and technology involved,” says Shedd, director of emerging technologies for Oglethorpe Power Corp.
As consumers are bombarded with more ads touting home solar systems, smart thermostats and replacement windows and doors, Shedd says the role of electric co-ops as the trusted energy advisers for their members remains critical.
His main conclusion so far: “Energy efficiency is more important than ever.”
“The focus is shifting toward apps, gadgets and home solar systems, but most consumers should spend their money on energy efficiency upgrades first.”
Starting with the simple, low/no cost measures, Shedd replaced incandescent lamps with LEDs, used weather stripping and caulk to air seal and installed ceiling fans.
When plumbing problems damaged old fiberglass insulation, he contacted a local contractor and installed open-cell spray foam insulation in the walls and ceiling.
“We encapsulated the attic space, which effectively brought the HVAC equipment and all of the ductwork inside the conditioned envelope of the house,” Shedd says. “That reduced the load on the air conditioner and saved us the costs of replacing the system or adding a second unit to support a new bedroom addition.”
An avid electric vehicle enthusiast, Shedd installed an EV charging unit and a 2-kilowatt solar array at the house and added lithium-ion battery storage rated at 10 kWh.
“The inverter, the wiring and all the components are designed for a larger system, so we can add more panels and expand the system in the future,” he says. “I’ve got an energy management app on my phone that allows me to monitor and control the systems remotely. Designing, installing and monitoring the system has given me a lot of firsthand experience on their performance.”
According to Shedd, while some consumers may be motivated by improving energy efficiency to control costs, others are inspired by the prospect of having the latest technology even if the payout for their initial investment takes years to recover.
“Rooftop solar and home energy storage get lots of attention, but energy efficiency is critically important, especially when a member calls concerned about their high electric bills,” Shedd says. “The projects I’m taking on at home are making me more effective so I can help give members a clearer understanding of the economics and where the opportunities for savings really are.”